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Page last updated at 21:25 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 22:25 UK

The rise and fall of Wrexham

By Ian Gwyn Hughes
BBC Wales Football Editor

Brian Little
Life has been tough at Wrexham during Brian Little's reign

There has been a lot to celebrate for two of Welsh football's league teams this season, but there has been a very dark cloud hanging over the third - Wrexham.

Trips to Histon, Ebbsfleet, Forest Green Rovers and the like will face the Dragons next season as they start life outside the Football League following a 2-0 defeat at Hereford on Tuesday.

Over the last few seasons, it has been an almighty struggle on and off the pitch for the Dragons.

Promoted to League One (then known as Division Two) five years ago, and comfortably placed there under then-manager Denis Smith, they were hit by financial turmoil off the pitch.

Wrexham were relegated back to League Two in 2005 after having 10 points deducted for going into administration.

And their problems were to continue with the fans battling to oust then-owner Alex Hamilton who had bought the Racecourse and tried to evict the club from the ground.

While the club managed to overcome those problems, on the field things went from bad to worse under Smith, then his replacement Brian Carey and now Brian Little.

This, of course, is not the first time Wrexham have struggled in the league.

In the past they have had to apply for re-election, and in 1991 when Brian Flynn was manager they actually finished bottom of the league.

But because they knew that no club would be relegated that year, they threw in the youngsters just to get experience and to build a side for the future.

And of course last season it took a win against Boston on the final day of the season to guarantee league status. As it happens, it was all to no avail.

Wrexham is a club with a proud history and tradition - the oldest league club in Wales with a terrific fan base, which in my opinion has never truly been tapped into.

There was a brief period in the 1970s when the club gained promotion to the old Second Division - now the Championship - but it was in all a brief stay.

Those were the golden days of Wrexham Football Club.

John Neal was at the helm, he had players of quality and experience and put in place a youth policy.

That saw the emergence of players such as Joey Jones, Mickey Thomas and Dave Smallman who all went on to bigger clubs - Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton.

Wrexham made a name for themselves in cup competitions both at home and abroad.

There was a great FA Cup run which saw the team reach the quarter-finals only to lose to then-First Division Burnley and a memorable League Cup win at White Hart Lane against Tottenham.

606: DEBATE
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Abroad there was the game against the Belgian giants Anderlecht in the European Cup Winners' Cup, when the eventual winners were held 1-1 at the Racecourse after a 1-0 win in Brussels in the quarter-finals.

Heartbreak followed in the league in the mid-1970s when the team threw away promotion and Neal left for Middlesbrough.

Arfon Griffiths took over as player-manager and the rest, as they say, is history.

From the back, Dai Davies in goal, through midfield to the striker Dixie McNeill, Wrexham had class and played football far above Third Division standard.

The Championship was won, the Welsh Cup also and the team reached the quarter-finals of both FA and League Cups. A remarkable season which ended all too quickly.

It took the appointment of Flynn to restore those days at the Racecourse.

No one will forget the epic FA Cup success against the league champions Arsenal and that goal scored by Mickey Thomas.

Flynn won promotion and once more the team reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup before losing to Chesterfield.

Despite one promotion since then under Smith, when the team had Andy Morrell, Carlos Edwards and Lee Trundle in the ranks - all were sold for nothing - it has mainly been a struggle culminating in relegation out of the Football League.

The achievement of the likes of Colchester, Lincoln, Carlisle, Darlington and Shrewsbury who bounced back is one for Wrexham to try to replicate.

But the fate of Halifax, Exeter and Oxford is a warning. All in all, it is heartbreaking.




see also
Wrexham go out of Football League
22 Apr 08 |  League Two
What next for Wrexham?
23 Apr 08 |  Wrexham
Boston lose Football League spot
05 May 07 |  League Two


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